Monday, December 31, 2012

Too Many Bowls!

Let's face it: bowl games have become devalued as a result of their growth in number.  At one time it was a real accomplishment to be invited to a bowl game, now it's almost expected after a slightly more than average season.  And it's hard to warm up to the Go Daddy.Com bowl or the New Mexico Bowl or the Capital One Bowl.  I'm surprised that there is not a Toilet Bowl!  Maybe that's  one for Washington, DC, given our Congressional losers' lack of action on the fiscal cliff.  Or are we in the  porcelain bowl?

Even the old four, the Sugar, Cotton, Orange, and Rose Bowls have become diminished by having to schedule what's available.

Still, the Florida - Louisville game in the Sugar Bowl should be interesting, and the Texas A&M - Oklahoma game in the Cotton Bowl seems to be the best of the New Year's Day bowl games.  I see Florida and A & M winning those.  After all, A & M surprised Alabama last year.

Well, there's the BCS Championship.  I hope Alabama will prevail over Notre Dame, and exorcise the ghosts of 1966 and 1973.

Prediction:  Alabama 22, Notre Dame 14

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jackie Sherrill on Motivating a Team

Back in 1992, unranked Mississippi State was scheduled to play the tenth-ranked Texas Longhorns.

Coach Jackie Sherrill of Mississippi State had his Bulldogs view the castration of Wild Willie, a bull, on the practice field.  He based this on his team not knowing the difference between a bull and a steer.  Like, sure.

The shit then hit the fan. 

Even though no one had to dine on prairie oysters.

Sherrill added that the demonstration performed on "Wild Willie" was done to educate and motivate the team. The motivational part worked, at least -- Missisippi State, a two-point underdog, won 28-10. After being widely criticized, Sherrill offered a quarter-hearted apology.
"Even though I was not involved in the procedure that took place, I take responsibility," Coach Sherrill said.  "If this incident was in any way not perceived as proper by those who love Mississippi State, then I apologize."

I would assume that bull castrations were common occurrences at vet schools in ag colleges.  Would Wild Willie's history be different? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Handguns and Episodes Like in Newtown, CT

Today's tragedy in Newtown, CT underscores a continuing problem that the United States has with handguns:  there are too damned many of them, and they're sometimes in the hands of the wrong people.

Frankly, an outright ban on handguns or widespread licensing would have only limited success; much like laws prohibiting ownership by convicted felons.  After all, these jokers are not with a good track record on being law-abiding in other ways.

But there are some things that can be done, and things that shouldn't. 

1.  Mandatory severe sentences for people who bring handguns into public buildings, like courthouses or schools, for instance.

2.  Some better screening of entranceways to those places.

3. Really stiff penalties for armed robbery, and other crimes in which a gun is involved.

4.  Register as many of the damned things as possible, and have a no-b.s. waiting period before any purchase.  This would reduce impulsive shootings on the part of people who are not weapon-holders.

5.  Broaden restrictions on assault rifles.  And, who knows, maybe crew-served weapons as well.  You can never tell how far gun escalation may go.

6.  Re-think the idea that letting teachers and administrators come to school armed would serve as a deterrent to such sorry episodes as in Newtown, CT, or the one in Huntsville a few years ago.  That's too much of a N.R.A. fantasy, folks.

Anyway, two thoughts along these lines.

a.  Handguns are limited in accuracy, and only at short range.  Additional shooters, even trying to shoot the shooter, might simply put some additional casualties due to "friendly fire."  And most owners of handguns have unduly rosy perceptions of their own skills or the accuracies of their guns. 

b.  And, when the police come, they have the additional problem of distinguishing the killer from the defenders.  Imposing on them this additional choice decision puts them at unnecessary risk.  If I was a police officer, the most self-protective thing I could do is shoot anyone with a gun and inquire afterwards!

I taught on the university level for over 40 years in two different institutions, and in that span of time never had an occasion to use a gun.  And I'm sure that most teachers on any level have had similar histories.  I know how to use a handgun.  Would my bringing a gun to work (e.g., U.N.A. or other workplace) have been a good idea?  No, podner.  It would have been pluperfectly stupid.  How ready would I be?  Or anyone else who knows guns.  And what condition  would my weapon be in?  Most daily life is ordinary.  And ordinary life leaves you unprepared for this occurrence that may involve one chance in a million.

There's an illusion that we have about the present times: that things are more unsafe than they had been.  In fact, Stephen Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature presents convincing data that says otherwise.

A child nowadays has a better chance of living a long life unscathed than ever before in history, but there is absolutely no certainty.  Life offers no guarantees.

Every day is a gift that should not be taken for granted.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

P. J. O'Rourke on Majority Rule and Free Will

"Majority rule is a precious, sacred thing worth dying for.  But -- like other precious, sacred things, such as the home and the family -- it's not only worth dying for; it can make you wish you were dead  if all of life were determined by majority rule.  Every meal would be a pizza.  Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stonewashed denim.  Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library."

"One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on.  And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license."